Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dead as a Dinosaur: Review

The action in Dead as a Dinosaur by Frances & Richard Lockridge starts out as "one of those things." As it seems to Detective Vern Anstey in the opening paragraph, he "realized that what he was up against was one of those things. New York was full of those things, and always had been and always would be. You jammed too many people too closely together, so that they could not move without pushing and shoving one another, and you got those things. Detective Anstey was always running into them; to run into them was, he sometimes thought, the purpose for which he had been created. He took a dim view of this, which did not in any way affect his attitude, which at the moment was one of efficient attention."

And what exactly is this particular "one of those things"? Well, someone seems to be having a great deal of fun at Dr. Orpheus Preson's expense. Putting out personal ads in the good doctor's name and asking for all sorts of interesting items and services--everything from tree surgeons to ponies and masons to midgets. Dr. Preson, an eminent mammologist and curator of the Broadly Institute, believes that someone is persecuting him to prevent him from finishing his latest book--a sequel to the ever-popular The Days Before Man. If so, then it's working. He hasn't been able to concentrate on his book at all.

But as the policeman points out, it's hard for them to really do anything. The doctor could change his phone number. He could contact all the papers and insist that they require identification before printing any more ads in his name. But as far as actually catching the crackpot behind the pranks...probably not going to happen.

Then things get a little more interesting. Someone puts phenobarbital in the doctor's milk and his sister who happens to stop by for a visit gets a nice healthy dose. Not enough to kill her, but enough to get a little more attention from the police. No sooner is she out of the hospital and recovered then the doctor gets a dose of the stuff himself...but he's not so lucky. Evidence comes to light that makes it seem like the doctor may have been planting the seeds of persecution himself and then misjudged the dose or committed suicide.

But, of course, things are screwier (to quote Sergeant Mullins) than that. Because the doctor's publisher was none other than North Books and so Pam & Jerry North get involved in the case. Pretty soon Pam is following up her belief that "the little man" wasn't crazy and that something just isn't right somewhere. It all ends in a giant game of hide-and-seek in the labyrinthine corridors of the Broadly Institute and Pam on display in a diorama from the prehistory of the world.

Once again, the Lockridges provide great fun in the 1940/50s era New York City. The mystery is not incredibly intricate...and the wrap up is a bit unbelievable, but it just doesn't matter. It's a fun ride and a nice escape. I always enjoy sharing the adventures of Pamela North. Four stars.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I've only belatedly started reading these - it does sound like the formula was pretty consistent across the series. Is there one or two you would rate as the best of them?

Ryan said...

I think I want to read this for the title alone. Thanks for the heads up.